Fortification: A Question of Protection

gates1small.JPG (51343 bytes)  gates2small.JPG (49198 bytes)  gates3small.JPG (78495 bytes)  gates5small.JPG (79733 bytes)  gateslastsmall.JPG (74674 bytes)  gates6small.JPG (62371 bytes)

bars1small.JPG (53349 bytes)  bars2small.JPG (50890 bytes)  bars3small.JPG (62779 bytes)  bars5small.JPG (40454 bytes)  bars6small.JPG (50846 bytes)  bars7small.JPG (39945 bytes)

After driving around South-Central Phoenix neighborhoods this past weekend I realized that the rich and the poor have something in common when it comes to protecting themselves and their property; gates, fences, walls, bars, no trespassing signs, Beware of Dog signs, "This House Protected By…" signs, and so on.  Camilo Jose Vergara in Bunkering the Poor: Our Fortified Ghettos states that "Fortification epitomizes the ghetto…"(58).  I would argue that fortification epitomizes the estates (wealthy) as well.

The significant difference in fortification lies in how a home is fortified, or protected.  Is it a palace, or is it a "prison house"?  Homes owned by the wealthy can be secured in several ways.  A gated community (especially with a guard on duty) seems to be trendy at this point in time, and, it would decrease the need to put more physical barriers around the house itself, leaving it more aesthetically pleasing to the neighborhood and to the homeowner.  But, more importantly, the house remains a "palace" not a "prison house", or worse.

On the other hand, those who are concerned about their safety from others but are unable to afford a gated neighborhood with all the amenities, resort to fences or walls around the perimeters of their homes.  These barriers measure from a few feet high on up to seven feet or so and can be chain-link, block, or wrought-iron.  These walls, however, are not what make a house a prison.  It is the locked bars on the windows and doors that not only make the house a "prison house", but also a death-trap.  Vergara reminds us of this when he describes a tragedy that occurred in Detroit, involving mostly young children "…trapped by fires in barred and barricaded houses."  Ironically, these barricades were presumably put in place to protect the family. 

Although I argue that the rich and poor fortify their homes the same, yet differently, I feel dismayed at the idea that one becomes a fortress (a palace) and one becomes a "prison house" (a death-trap).  

A tragedy occurred in Glendale (a part of metropolitan Phoenix) on March 28th, when a residential fire took the life of a father and his young child.  Authorities said "window modifications may have been a contributing factor to the deaths."  For the article, click here.



Last Updated 4-7-2002